Jaz­zpunk mostly leaves you to ex­plore, so its sole flash­ing ar­row proves too con­spic­u­ous to ig­nore. It leads to a wed­ding cake, which flips open to re­veal a mon­i­tor dis­play, trans­port­ing you to one of Jaz­zpunk’s best dis­trac­tions. Wed­ding Qake is a mul­ti­player arena shooter that lives up to its name: cham­pagne bot­tles be­come shot­guns and wed­ding cakes are mini­guns, while a glass of fizz brings a cry of “Toast!” and a brief speed boost. The bots – dressed as brides, grooms and vic­ars – make for tough op­po­si­tion. You’ll want to play again, and you can straight from the menu. reused, too, in­clud­ing the goons in beige rain­coats who block your path as you es­cape from a down­town sushi restau­rant. As you clear the way with melee strikes, they emit the sound of pins be­ing knocked down by a bowl­ing ball. One of the last you’ll face is a pin wear­ing a hat; an­other shouts “Bowl­ing joke” as you ap­proach; an­other begs for mercy. (“Please don’t hurt me,” he im­plores. “I’m a sen­si­tive man.”) A level set at a lux­ury beach­front re­sort, mean­while, is dot­ted with dumb-as­they-come slacker guys and val­ley girls, while sev­eral male tourists ape Johnny Depp’s turn in Fear And Loathing In Las Ve­gas – hat, Hawai­ian shirt, and a cig­a­rette holder dan­gling from each mouth­less face.

These fa­mil­iar sights bring con­sis­tency to a var­ied world, which spans the town plaza, seedy down­town and sea­side re­sort as well as a pent­house, a neon­flecked city and a net­work of sky­scraper rooftops. There are plenty of sur­prises along the way, some of which take you out of the game­world en­tirely (see ‘Shot­gun wed­ding’). Changes of scenery help Ne­cro­phone en­sure its sim­ple set of me­chan­ics – there’s a sin­gle ac­tion but­ton, a jump you’ll rarely need, and a but­ton that cy­cles through your in­ven­tory – doesn’t grow stale. Items are au­to­mat­i­cally, in­vis­i­bly dis­carded the sec­ond they’ve fin­ished serv­ing a pur­pose, a smart de­ci­sion from a de­vel­oper aware there’s noth­ing so pace-break­ing as rum­mag­ing through a busy in­ven­tory. Thank­fully, this is much more than a sim­ple ex­er­cise in click­ing through NPC di­a­logue trees and chuck­ling at the re­sults. Ne­cro­phone knows it’s mak­ing a game, and en­sures that it fre­quently sends up its host medium in the midst of all the sight gags and tech puns, bend­ing its own me­chan­i­cal rules to do so. There are nods to Wave Race, Vir­tual Boy, Duck Hunt and more be­sides, while Street Fighter II’s in­flu­ence is felt in a highly one-sided first­per­son punch-up and a stand­out sec­tion in which you guide the dot­ted line of Agent Poly­blank’s voy­age across a mati­nee-movie world map. Late on, Jaz­zpunk per­haps leans on game par­o­dies a lit­tle too heav­ily, but you won’t mind at all. By this point, your heart has long since been won.

Jaz­zpunk’s great­est suc­cess, though, is how its dis­parate parts all fit to­gether. Its in­spi­ra­tions are, af­ter all, much more finely tar­geted. Air­plane! sends up the dis­as­ter flick and Hot Shots! spoofs the war movie, while Austin Pow­ers goes even fur­ther, nar­row­ing its sights to a sin­gle se­ries. Gam­ing, how­ever, is a far broader church, and it’s some achieve­ment that Ne­cro­phone’s game spans so many lo­ca­tions, styles, gen­res and eras with barely a sin­gle gag fail­ing to hit the mark. Games are so rarely funny by de­sign, but Jaz­zpunk is much more than a funny videogame. It’s a com­edy, and one that wouldn’t be pos­si­ble – or any­where near as pow­er­ful – in any other medium.

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